Health-Related Modifications to Your Family Home: Six Ways to Minimize the Cost and Headaches
Home sweet home. As the occupants change over the years, a home has to adapt to their changing needs. The adjustments may be gradual or—in the event of an illness or accident—they may be immediate. As the family’s needs evolve, everything possible should be done to assure the family can live there safely without jeopardizing their quality of life. This is especially important with an elderly or disabled family member.
It may be difficult to find a home modification company that is dependable, and—I hate to say this—it seems to be worse if you are a woman living on your own. I’m the type of person who wants things done right the first time. I expect the people who do work for me to have those same values. Sadly, there are contractors out there who disappoint their clients every day.
Done improperly, home modifications can become a real nightmare. In fact, my own mother sold our family home because a workman replaced the kitchen floor, botched it up, rather blatantly, and never returned to finish the job. She was able to maintain her independence by moving into a single-story apartment, but leaving the family home where there were so many sweet memories was a difficult decision to make. Many people have lived in their home for decades, and it can be hard to leave what has become your comfort zone.
Home modifications are not just for the benefit of the disabled or elderly care receiver. Part of the thought process has to be about the caregiver. Without the proper equipment and modifications, caring for a patient can be back-breaking, exhausting work.
Common Home Alterations to Accomodate Health Conditions and Aging
Here are some common alterations for a patient with a disability or limited mobility:
- Widening doorways and passageways
- Moving light switches and door handles
- Adding grab rails for support
- Adapting bathroom facilities
- Relocating bathroom or bedroom facilities to a ground floor area
- Building ramps to avoid using steps
- Installing a stair lift or elevator to transport the patient from one floor to another
- Utilizing specialized furniture adaptations, such as raising chairs or adjustable beds
- Setting up alert devices for emergency situations
- Establishing an escape route for the patient in case of an emergency
Today there are many practical options for those with disabilities who want to stay at home. Start by identifying what needs to be done, although a qualified company representative should be able to help define your needs and create a road map for the work. There will be budget considerations—a good plan should position the family to not have to spend the same dollar twice for costly renovations. Also, ask if the company you’re negotiating with has adaptive equipment.
Tips from a Professional Handy Man
On my radio show, Caregiving S.O.S., I recently interviewed Robert Gurinowitsch with HandyPro, a franchise that specializes in senior and disability home modifications. Robert first became interested in home modifications when a head-on collision left him in a wheelchair. He recommends these considerations when looking for a dependable contractor:
- Recognize that first impressions are important. When you called the company, did they respond in a timely and professional manner? If they don’t call back for days and start out with excuses, maybe they’re not right for your job. On the first home visit, how did they introduce themselves? Did they listen to your needs, or did they tell you what you needed? And, if they track mud all over your carpet, they probably aren’t going to respect your home during the project.
- Verify that they have up-to-date insurance. Workers’ compensation insurance protects you if a worker is injured on your property. Liability insurance protects you if any of your property is damaged. It’s important to ask a contractor for their insurance agent and request a certificate of insurance, especially for a large project.
- Get it in writing. All warranties and estimates must be carefully spelled out in the paperwork. If it is vague, run! Having detailed documentation will help protect you in the long run, and will avoid costly misunderstandings for the contractor, too.
- Ask for and check multiple references—especially those in your area and age group. Did they finish the job on time? What was the overall quality of the work? Does the company stand behind warranties? Did the contractor listen to you when there was a problem? Did the crew show up on time? Would previous customers use them again.
- Learn how long the company has been in business, and find out if they have any complaints with the BBB. Warranties are only as good as the company. If they are out of business, in many cases your warranty isn’t valid. Making a call to the BBB or conducting a search by company name on the Internet may offer surprising results that you should consider before signing on the dotted line.
- Make sure you fully understand and agree before you sign anything. Don’t leave questions hanging out there unanswered. Taking time to ensure that you and the contractor have clear expectations will ensure a smooth and problem-free project.
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Special thanks to: Robert Gurinowitsch with HandyPro, a company that specializes in home modifications for seniors and the disabled. Call (800) 942-6394 for a location near you, or go to www.HandyPro.com for more information.
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